IAF restricts private industry engagement in the Mi-17 overhaul program

The Indian Air Force has redefined its standards for outsourcing the repair and overhaul of its Russian-origin Mi-17 class helicopters to the commercial sector, and will now off-load only a portion of the overhaul process to outside firms. The IAF requested industry to join in the Mi-17 refurbishment program in March in order to fill a gap in the IAF’s current in-house capacity, speed up the repair process, and improve the country’s aviation capability.

The industry will now be included in the overhaul process through the ‘plant-in-plant’ concept, in which the selected bidder will complete six newly defined tasks at the IAF’s No. 3 Base Repair Depot under the supervision of the depot’s workforce. The industry will be responsible for providing people, tools, and specified spares, while the IAF will provide first technical instruction to the private crew on the Mi-17. The IAF expects 15 helicopters to be renovated under this agreement between 2022 and 2023, with the agreement lasting at least two years.

One helicopter overhaul takes roughly three months. Previously, the industry was responsible for the entire overhaul process, from accepting the helicopter to post-overhaul ground and flight tests, which included overhaul of the aero-engines, replacement of all spares, hoses, seals, and consumables, as well as certification, before returning the aircraft to the IAF. It was supposed to take ten years, with the possibility of an extension. The IAF has outlined six techniques that private industry can use in a new statement of interest released this week.

These include dismantling the helicopter and its aggregates, paint removal and cleaning of the entire helicopter and its parts, defect analysis of the structure, including visual checks, non-destructive testing for cracks, dents, loose or missing rivets, corrosion, and carrying out necessary repairs, removal of the electrical loom and its refurbishment followed by testing and relaying, cockpit and cargo compartment ceiling, side, and floor panel repairs and refurbishment, and an inspection of the entire helicopter and its parts.

The IAF operates three Mi-17 models, including the most recent Mi-17 V5, Mi-17 1V, and previous versions, as the backbone of its medium-lift rotary component. These are overhauled at Chandigarh’s No. 3 Base Repair Deport, the world’s largest helicopter maintenance facility for Soviet and Russian origin helicopters.

The IAF is said to have about 220 Mi-17 helicopters, which have been in service since 1991. These aircraft progressively supplanted the Mi-8 and are widely utilised for tactical missions such as troop transport, assault, ferrying and air dropping supplies in isolated locations, special operations, search and rescue, and disaster management.

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